Roa: Knowing our true cultural identity-A A +A
Sunday, June 17, 2012
THE first documented description of the Kagay-anons was written by two Augustinian Recollect missionaries, namely, Fray Juan de San Nicolas and Fray Franciso de la Madre de Dios, who were the first Spaniards to enter the Cagaiang (Cagayan) territory in 1622.
Their historic account was included in their order's journal that was chronicled by Fray Luis de Jesus and printed in Madrid, Spain in 1681.
Between 1903 and 1907, this journal was among the hundreds of Spanish colonial documents that were painstakingly translated to English by two American historiographers, Emma Helena Blair and James Alexander Robertson. Their monumental work was subsequently published into the 55 volume - The Philippine Islands: 1493 - 1898.
To scholars and researchers alike, this is simply known as “BR” or Blair and Robertson and proved to be a big boon in widening our perspective about our history.
In Volume 21 of Blair and Robertson, in chapter ten titled “Preaching of Ours in the river of Cagaiang” (page 231-236), I read about how the two priests were told about a people that lived in Cagaiang who were more docile (or teachable) than all other inhabitants in Mindanao.
Eager to evangelize them with the gospel, they were able to enter Cagaiang, through the help of Dona Magdalena Bacuya, a Christian noble lady who hailed from Dapitan and Butuan.
Bacuya was the grandmother of Datu Salangsang.
The priests noted that “the customs of those people (Kagay-anons) are like those related of the inhabitants of Caraghas.” (B.R. volume 21 page 232). Then they proceeded to describe the interiors of the dwelling place of Salangsang and his 500 subjects and the events that happened during their stay.
However, let us focus solely on this brief one-line description of the Kagay-anons in 1622 because this has been ignored or not fully known by many cultural workers today.
So who were the 17th century people of Caraghas and why were the Kagay-anons described by the Recollect priests to be just like them?
Caraghas or Caraga refers to a place by the Pacific coast of Mindanao in what is now Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental.
In 1681, Fray Luis de Jesus wrote that the Caragans were similar in their customs and rituals as the Butuanons. And this makes the three - Kagay-anons, Caragans and Butuanons - having the same culture.
Actually, this can be said of the people living from the eastern coast of Surigao to Sindangan Bay west of Mindanao. It is in this vast coastal area that the early Spanish missionaries were able to make themselves understood in Cebuano. Why so? Because this is the region that is part of what prehistorians called the “Visayan homeland.”
From the book “Barangay” by William Henry Scott, I learned that it was in what is now Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental that the Spaniards first heard of the name “Vizaya.” That the Dutch records referred to southeastern Mindanao as Bisaya and that in 1543, the Spanish explorer, Villalobos, called Davao Gulf as Bisaya Bay.
So what does this tells us? That our ancient forebears were identified culturally as Visayans.
Let us look at the description of the people of Caragans by Scott for this will also give us a picture of how the 17th century Kagay-anon lived and looked like (page 162):
“Like other Visayans, men on these shores were tattooed and wore penis pins, G-strings and turbans or headbands, red in case of those who personally killed enemies, recognized insignia of the ‘nobility.’ They fought salve raiding wars with long narrow shields, blowguns and in some places, metal tipped arrows, and the broad-bladed, single-edged baladaw but not the wavy kris or kampilan. They took omens with crocodile teeth, rocking boats and the limokon bird, made use of charms and poisons, and were reputed to kill with a breath. Half- slaves worked for their masters half time, shamans were either male or female baylan, and deified ancestor spirits were called humalagar. They had neither public idols nor temples -- though more than one missionary thought that the chiefs' large houses with family altars were the equivalent; and in Himologan (Cagayan de Oro), a kind of miniature house called ‘diwatahan’ for offering sacrifices stood in the middle of a communal dwelling which housed the entire village. Little idols of wood or stone -- which friar accounts always described as diwata," black and ugly" -- were small enough to be carried out to planting rituals. The dead were buried in coffins placed in caves with thin plates of gold over their mouths and eyes, and after a mourning period during which people avoided all sites that had been frequented by the deceased.”
(To be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 18, 2012.